Steve Nash on sitting James Harden vs. Jazz: ‘I don’t think it’s safe for him to play’
The Brooklyn Nets sat a banged-up James Harden Wednesday night against the Utah Jazz, and Steve Nash revealed that the decision was made to protect the superstar from himself.
Harden played an outstanding game Tuesday (25 points, 17 assists, seven rebounds) despite lingering neck soreness, leading the Nets to a 116-112 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers. The Nets having to play on consecutive nights, however, led Nash to make the difficult move to sit the only member of the team’s Big Three currently available.
Durant remains out due to a hamstring strain and Kyrie Irving is away from the team once again for personal reasons, something that led to his absence for a stretch earlier this season.
Addressing Harden’s unavailability for Wednesday’s tilt, a game in which the undermanned Nets were blown out by the Western Conference-leading Jazz by a score of 118-88, Nash explained how Harden likely would have played had it been up to him.
“I’m hoping it’s short term,” Nash said, per the New York Post. “To be honest, I’m sure James would’ve wanted to play [in Utah]. But he’s not. I don’t think it’s safe for him to play, and I think sometimes you have to protect him from himself. He’s such a warrior and competitor and loves to play.
“But he was questionable for [Tuesday], played a ton of minutes. You could see it was tough for him shooting the ball, but he still obviously dominated in other ways. But I think [Wednesday] it was the smartest and safest decision to protect him from himself and take him out of the lineup because he’s struggling. It’s pretty sore. I hope that he’ll be back next game, but we’ll have to see day by day here.”
Harden admitted Wednesday that if Nash had called his number Wednesday night, he would have been ready to roll.
“[Wednesday] when I wake up, if I feel like I can go, I’ll go. It’s that simple,” Harden had said, citing the fact the Nets needed him while playing shorthanded without Kevin Durant (hamstring) and Kyrie Irving (family matter).
“Everything isn’t going to be perfect, whether it’s playing through injuries or playing banged up. … Obviously when you’re hurt, you’re hurt; you sit out. I try to go out there, make an impact and play if I’m able to if it’s not risking anything.”
The Nets, despite Wednesday’s ugly loss, remain in a mathematical tie with the Milwaukee Bucks in the second slot in the Eastern Conference, with both teams 1.5 games back of the Philadelphia 76ers. While no timetable has been established for Durant’s return to the court, it is believed to be coming sooner rather than later.
Irving, meanwhile, continues to be one of the most enigmatic, contemplative and complex players in the league. Despite the mystery surrounding his latest absence — it’s been reported to involve a family matter — Irving is expected to return to the Nets following Friday’s game against the Detroit Pistons.
It remains to be seen when Harden returns. At this stage, he’s considered questionable for Friday. That said, Nash did express hope that his absence is a short-term thing.
In other words, it won’t be long before the Nets get the band back together for a post-trade deadline run to the postseason. Given how well Brooklyn has weathered the absences of Durant and Irving this season — of course thanks to Harden’s heroics — it will be interesting to see how things come to together once the Big Three are reunited back on the court.